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EPA issues hazardous minimization guidelines; many companies in the nonwovens industry may be affected; chemical manufacturers in particular monitoring implications of guidelines.

many companies in the nonwovens industry may be affected; chemical manufacturers in particular monitoring implications of guidelines

A recent Environmental Protection Agency notice describing an EPA-acceptable hazardous waste minimization program has been circulated to INDA members. While these proposed guidelines will not impact all members of the nonwovens industry, they could affect many segments in the industry, especially chemical manufacturers and users.

In fact, according to published reports, the chemical industry is so concerned by certain elements of the proposed guidelines that it is considering a court challenge unless those elements are changed.

In addition, any nonwovens facility that generates waste that is specifically listed as hazardous under the Federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) or exhibits characteristics of ignitability, reactivity, corrosivity or toxicity would be affected by these proposed guidelines as well.

It is important to remember that RCRA hazardous wastes can be generated by any manufacturing facility through use of industrial cleaning and maintenance materials.

Since 1984, under RCRA amendments passed by Congress, facilities that generate hazardous waste are required to have a waste minimization "program in place." They must also certify on their hazardous waste manifests that they have such a program.

But in the nine years since these requirements were put in place by Congress, the EPA has not issued formal guidelines regarding the elements of an acceptable "program in place," although proposed guidelines were released in 1989.

What the EPA has now done is released a set of "interim final guidelines" outlining the general elements of an acceptable program and sought public comment on the issue. While these interim final guidelines would not be legally binding, once they are finalized the certification contained under RCRA is.

At press time, the EPA had closed its deadline for accepting comment on these interim final guidelines and had announced its intent to hold a roundtable meeting this November to provide industry, states and regions as well as environmental and citizens groups an opportunity to provide additional input on the proposed guidelines. The EPA then expects to finalize the guidelines in late 1994.

Six Elements

Under federal law, there are two categories of hazardous waste generators subject to waste minimization requirements: large quantity generators (those who generate 1000 kg or more of hazardous waste per month) and small quantity generators (those who generate 100-1000 kg of hazardous waste per month).

Large quantity generators and facilities that treat, store or dispose of hazardous waste onsite must have a minimization program in place. Small quantity generators need only certify on their manifests that they have made a "good faith effort" to minimize their waste generation.

For those required to have a program in place, the proposed guidelines outline six elements of an EPA-acceptable program:

* Support of an "organization-wide" waste minimization effort by "top management." The EPA states that management can demonstrate support through such action as 1, development of a written waste minimization plan that is distributed to all employees; 2, establishment of "explicit goals" for minimizing both the volume and toxicity of waste streams within a reasonable time frame and 3, designation of a "waste minimization coordinator" responsible for implementing, monitoring and evaluating the minimization program.

* Implementation of a "waste accounting system" to track the types and amounts of waste generated as well as the dates they were generated.

* Performance of periodic waste minimization assessments to identify sources of waste and also calculate the true costs of waste generation and management.

* Development of a system that allocates the true costs of waste management to those activities from which the waste is generated rather than simply charging waste management costs to "overhead").

* Encouragement of "technology transfer." That is, the EPA believes that public and private sources of technical assistance are available to assist in waste minimization and any acceptable hazardous waste minimization program will be able to document the organization's efforts to seek or exchange information with these sources. Specifically noted as examples by the EPA are the Minnesota Technical Assistance Program, the California Waste Minimization Clearinghouse and the EPA's own Pollution Prevention Information Clearinghouse.

* Evidence that recommendations identified during the assessment process have been implemented and that reviews of the program's effectiveness are periodically conducted.

The EPA points out that its goal is to allow as much flexibility as possible for compliance with RCRA requirements and that "what is appropriate or one organization might not be appropriate for others."

Industry Concerns

Nevertheless, certain industry segments - especially the chemical industry - have expressed opposition to the proposed guidelines. According to published reports, this opposition largely stems from the fact that an estimated 19,000 hazardous waste generators could be asked to make their minimization plans available to the public under these guidelines.

Chemical manufacturers are especially concerned about public disclosure because they fear the EPA will not protect confidential business information contained in their minimization plans. Information regarding the chemical manufacturing process is secret within each company and, according to published reports, industry would consider it "corporate espionage" if that information were somehow made available through public disclosure.

There are other concerns as well and, also according to published reports, the chemical industry is considering a court challenge if the EPA proceeds with its disclosure plans. But such a challenge may be difficult to win since many government agencies require that confidential business information be reported and agencies are required under law to protect that information from public disclosure.

Peter Mayberry is the director of government affairs for INDA, Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry. He works out of the Washington D.C. offices of Keller & Heckman, INDA's legal counsel. This Capital Comments column appears monthly in nonwovens industry.
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Author:Mayberry, Peter
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Date:Oct 1, 1993
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